Go Beyond is one of the Telegraph’s chosen charities this Christmas, and the money it raises is spent on giving once-in-a-lifetime experiences to children who might otherwise never get to have fun and escape the worries and pressures of home.
Jane Truscott, who leads on pastoral care at Liskeard Hillfort, explains: “Sometimes we’ll say to children, ‘What did you do at the weekend?’ and they look at you blankly, but with Go Beyond, they come back full of stories. Their sense of achievement gives them an absolute lift. They come back with a real spring in their step because they’ve learnt a new skill. Being able to share that with their classmates is very powerful.”
Not only does Go Beyond boost children’s confidence, it also raises their sense of self-worth. A survey of children who attended a Go Beyond break found that 78 per cent think “good things will now happen in their lives”. This is vital in a Cornish community such as Cook’s, which is home to some of the most deprived children in Europe.
“A quarter of our children here at Hillfort are in the bottom 10 per cent of deprivation nationally,” says Cook. “But we are also one of the most culturally isolated communities. Because we’re geographically isolated, there is no popping to the theatre or an art gallery – you have to travel to Truro or Plymouth, which is not always possible for families. Lots of our children have never been to a beach. The stereotype of Cornwall is that it’s all fun and pasties and ice cream, but actually it is culturally isolated and that makes Go Beyond an oasis in a cultural desert.”
Another challenge for some of his pupils is a lack of ambition and expectation, says Cook. “With Go Beyond, the staff are lovely young people in their 20s, who take on the role of a big brother or sister. All of a sudden, the children have role models and expectations,” he explains. “All children have aspirations – to be vets or astronauts or doctors – but where do they get their expectations from? Go Beyond can fill that gap for children, and show them what they’re capable of and what their future could look like.”
Anisha Reed manages a team of social workers in Wokingham, Berkshire, and she has seen the impact of Covid on children and young people of all ages.
“We call them ‘the Covid generation’ because it’s affected such a large cohort, from Covid babies who developed separation anxiety as toddlers and young children, through to teenagers struggling with anxiety and the return to school and exams. And they’re still suffering – we will see the ripple effects for years to come,” she says.
Reed, who is a trustee of Go Beyond, says the charity saw an influx of referrals after the pandemic, as more children than ever reported suffering with anxiety. Reed says that the charity’s skill is in really getting to know the children who are coming, and understanding the challenges they face.
“We sometimes have young carers or children with protection plans in place – a Go Beyond trip provides them with a level of respite from their home situation. Each individual’s needs are shared before they come on the break and the team is very mindful of each child’s vulnerabilities.”
As a result, every child leaves with a new found positive sense of their own place in the world. “We push them out of their comfort zone but in a very supported way, which helps build their resilience and confidence. The journey they go on in just one week is huge.”
Go Beyond is one of four charities supported by this year’s Telegraph Christmas Charity Appeal. The others are Race Against Dementia, the RAF Benevolent Fund and Marie Curie. To make a donation, please visit telegraph.co.uk/2023appeal or call 0151 284 1927